"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, May 23, 2024


Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Book Beginnings quote: 
Here was this man Tom Guthrie in Holt standing at the back window in the kitchen of his house smoking cigarettes and looking out over the back lot where the sun was coming up
Friday56 quote:
Quit, she said. Don't. Let's get out of here. It's starting to give me the creeps in here.

Summary: Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. It's as if Haruf has conjured up a whole community in the fictional town of Holt in eastern Colorado and then immersed the reader in its dramas. 

Review: My husband grew up in a small town in eastern Oregon. Holt, Colorado could be the same town as John Day, Oregon, where Don grew up -- a small, tight-knit community where everybody was into everybody's business but the sense of community is strong and important. Last time we visited his hometown we attended the County Fair and a concert. While there Don saw so many people he knew -- classmates, siblings of friends, teachers who remembered him, people who attended the same church including his Sunday School teacher-- so he couldn't take a step without someone stopping him and saying hi. It was a heartwarming experience one I've never experienced in my whole life. I wasn't from a small town.

The first sentence of the book starts rather oddly, don't you think? "Here is this man Tom Guthrie..." It is almost as if a drone is flying around Holt and it stops outside Guthrie's window long enough for the drone's operator to remark who is in the window. To some degree the whole book is like this with little snatches of action by the various characters as viewed from a drone with no transitions from previous action to the current situation. I decided, as I closed the book on the last page, this is the way real life is. We witness an accident downtown, let's say, and we stop to help. After making sure everyone is okay we get back in our car and drive away. There is no end of this story for us. We never find out what happened next. Did they have to go the hospital? Was the car towed? What car are they driving now? We don't know and won't ever know. That is life. Things happen and then it is over and something else happens. No wonder we like books where the author tells us how everything works out. We aren't left wondering.

The second odd thing about Plainsong is that Haruf does not use quotation marks. Notice the quote from page 56 above.  A girl is speaking to her boyfriend who is pestering her. But without the quotation marks it is as if everything is happening in a dream. In fact, the whole book has a rather dreamlike quality to it. It is as if the author purposely wants the reader to be at an arm's length from the action. It was odd but I have to admit I didn't mind. Is it possible that is why the book has been described by some as "delicate?" I'm not sure.

This is the second book I've read by Haruf and I admit I'm in his fan club. Perhaps it is because he also was a high school teacher and a preacher's kid just like me. He published six novels before his death in 2014, all of them set in Holt. Plainsong is the first book in a trilogy and it was a National Book Award finalist in 1999.

The book opens with a definition of plainsong -- the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air. I think the title is perfect for this book.

I half listened to and half read the book and I enjoyed the experience of both formats for different reasons. It is for an upcoming book club. I wonder how our discussion will go. I hope it goes well.

 6/18/24 I just returned from book club where to a person every women really loved this book. No one could really put their finger on it but all loved it. And we had a fantastic discussion more about our lives when we were growing up than the book. I recommend it as a club selection if you are looking around for a good book.

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As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. Help me communicate with past participants so they can figure out where and how to find me, please post this post's URL on your blog. Don't forget to drop a comment on my post also! Thanks.

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